Learn new technology through writing a tutorial about it

I like to get my feet wet on new technologies, but find if I don’t use it for some time, e.g., several months, I will forget a lot of details, not sure whether other people have the same feeling :-). To let me get a quick refreshment of the technology after a while, I resort to the old school method: writing notes. But one day, I came out a idea: why not try to write a tutorial during studying instead of only recording? So in the past 2 years, Golang 101 hacks and OpenMP Little Book are born. The whole process is really rewarding :

(1) Sometimes you think you have grasped the knowledge, but when you begin to write an article to explain it, you will find there are some points you can’t understand thoroughly. To make your article more clearly, you need to write code to verify it, look for help in the internet, etc. Among this process, you will get a deeper understanding.

(2) Your tutorial can be reviewed by other brilliant engineers who can point out your mistakes, in the meantime, the tutorial can also help others. E.g., I find my tutorial is quoted in stackoverflow’s answer occasionally, and it really encourages me!

(3) Since I am not a native English speaker, creating an English tutorial can also help to improve and practice my English skills. I highly recommend you use English to compose, because that can make your idea shared among the people all over the world!

Based on above points, writing technological tutorial is definitely a win-win process. Why not give a shot? I think you can!

6 thoughts on “Learn new technology through writing a tutorial about it”

  1. As someone on HackerNews already mentioned, please make sure to only actually publish such a tutorial if you are certain that it contains valuable, well-researched information that follows best practices. There are so many low quality tutorials out there, most of which probably came to be exactly this way.

    Other than that, I like the idea of using technical writing to improve your understanding of a subject.

    1. Strongly disagree with this — it’s *your personal* blog, you are free to write absolutely anything you want, and to require that `it contains valuable, well-researched information` is a ridiculously high standard. Instead, it should contain something like a disclaimer, or even better, a willingness to revise their tutorial if they have been corrected.

  2. Hi Nan,

    It’s amazing, but I had the same exact idea. Over the last two years, I learned about a lot of new subjects and I noticed that if I didn’t use the technologies/software often I would forget the most part about it.
    To overcome this, I started to take notes in text files under a folder: Notes. Well, very quickly it turned to be a mess whenever I needed to search for something. And categorize everything… Ugh.
    At the time I could only see one solution: building some sort of a Wiki to bypass this problem.
    Last summer, when I was on vacation, I had the idea of starting something similar to a logbook, where it was supposed to document everything that I was working on. For me this was a better idea than the wiki, because as you said in point 2, you can have expert people reviewing your articles.
    So, on the first day of this year, I launched what I like to call logbook (blog, for non-technical friends and family 🙂 ).
    It has been I very curious experience, so to say, but so far I’m enjoying it, and I only wish I had more time to work on this project.
    Anyway, just wanted to share my thought. I identify 100% with your text.

    All the best.

  3. Yeah but you probably don’t know the stuff that well and the tutorial will be filled with mistakes and then others will learn the mistakes and propagate wrong information.

  4. I have written two books this way and can vouch for this method. “JavaScript Testing with Jasmine” and “Express in Action” started as tutorials written exactly this way—I didn’t know the subject, so I pretended I was an expert and wrote the tutorial I wanted.

    Of course, I sat on these tutorials for a little while before publishing them and asked other people to review them, but this technique has worked well for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.